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June 2016

Hello Alumni Mentors and Student Protégés,

There are many ways to keep current on information and trends in your chosen career - subscribe to publications, join professional organizations, follow blogs, or attend webinars and conferences. Keeping up-to-date can help you make better decisions about developing opportunities as well as identifying challenges in your profession.

One of my subscriptions is to Management Mentors. A recent article “Where to begin…” talks about change, communication and leadership development. Although it pertains to mentors and mentees who are both employed, I think you will find the information relevant for your alumni/student mentoring relationship.

Where to Begin…

Even if mentors and mentorees participate in training, understand the program's overall objectives, and come to the relationship equipped with enthusiasm and icebreakers, sometimes pairs will still find themselves stumbling through the first few meetings.

  • What should we talk about?
  • What should we focus on?
  • Does this even make sense to pursue, or is it a waste of time?

Those are perfectly legitimate and understandable thoughts. See, mentoring always sounds good on paper. But mentoring does take work. It takes effort. And it can feel overwhelming—even daunting—if the mentor and mentoree don't know where to begin.
While every mentoring situation is unique (because bringing two people togetheralways creates a unique dynamic), there are certain topics that are universal—we're talking safe and productive topics that any mentoring pair can start with. The beauty of these topics is that they will lead the mentor and mentoree to other topics in a natural way.

Here are three topics to turn to when you don't know where else to begin...

Topic #1: How to Manage Change

Regardless of our industry or position, we all must manage change. Usually this is an ongoing life lesson, one we'll never master, not completely. So focusing early conversations on how the mentoree currently manages change (and how to improve upon this process) is a productive conversation that can yield immediate benefits.

Questions mentors can ask mentorees:

What has been the most significant change in your career and how has that affected you? These changes could involve job, location, manager, etc.
What words do you associate with the word "change"? Are these positive or negative? What makes them so?
What is your attitude toward change both positive and negative?
What concerns you the most about change?
Can you point to an experience where change was a welcomed event? What made that event different?
How have you managed the change(s) you have described and how could you have managed the change(s) more effectively?
What has been the most positive aspect of the change(s) you've recently undergone?
What has been the less positive aspect of the change(s) and could that have been avoided? How?
What have you learned about yourself from experiencing this change so far and how can you use this experience in the future when faced with changes in your career, job, etc.?
What future changes can you anticipate for yourself in your current situation and what can you do now to prepare yourself for dealing effectively with these changes?
Now that we've discussed the issue of change, what is the one thing you will do differently to manage the impact of change in your career?
What is the one new technique or idea you will carry with you today and implement in your work environment?

Topic #2: Communicating Successfully

We probably can agree that the most successful people tend to be excellent communicators. Focusing early mentoring sessions on communication challenges that the mentoree faces will lead to insightful discussions.

To get started, the mentor should ask the mentoree about a specific "real life" situation where the communication went sour.

After the mentoree shares the details, the mentor and mentoree should discuss the breakdown and potential strategies for avoiding such a breakdown in the future.

Questions to ask:

How did you feel going through this experience?
What could you have done to prevent this from happening?
At what point did the conversation clearly break down and why?
Did you have the support or resources you needed prior to entering into this discussion?
Was this the best setting to discuss this issue?
What do you think were the hidden agendas in this meeting?
Was there seriousness about resolving this issue in a win/win format?
What would you do differently now?

Topic #3: Leadership Development

Developing into a leader is another topic worth considering if you don't know where to begin. Mentorees should discuss what leadership means and how this specific definition affects his or her professional success.

Questions to get the discussion started:

What does the term leadership mean? Is leadership the same as managing?
How does the organization/company define leadership?
What kind of leadership is demonstrated in the company?
What kind of leadership do you demonstrate within your current position?
What are some of the most important strategies that a leader can use to achieve his/her objectives?
How many of these do you use and how successful are you when you do use them?
Is your leadership reactive or proactive?
If you don't manage a staff, can you still lead? If yes, how?
Being an effective leader involves thinking strategically. How familiar are you with the company's strategic vision for the organization? How does your department/role fit into that vision?
When was the last time you felt you demonstrated leadership and what happened?
A leader also has to deal effectively with conflict. What is your experience with resolving conflicts when you are in a leadership role? What determines when you are successful and when you are not?
Do you bring strategic thinking to your career development? How?
Would your manager describe you as a leader? Why or why not?
If your manager doesn't view you as a leader, how can you change that perception?

What is the one thing you will do differently because of today's conversation?

V. Diane Collins
Alumni Mentoring Program Coordinator

May graduates Corrections

Masters of Health Administration
Johng Whan Choi
Melissa Coate
Blaise DeLuca
Alexandra D’Innocenzo
Derek Hartman
Amulya Khajuri
Bryan Kreider
Eric McLean
Cayla Meinert
Juliana Nat
Emilie Niemann
Andrei Nistor
James Packer
Anna Raptosh
Michael San Roman
Priya Sharma
Kaitlin Spangler
Dexter Truman
Victoria Ulmer

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